For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, the farmers will hold a three-day strike next week, withholding all fresh produce.
At present, it appears that the strike will begin Monday morning at 11:00, and will last until Wednesday evening. The farmers say the drastic step is necessary to express their protest and outrage at the “unjustified cut in the number of foreign workers and the persecution of the growers by levying a new employers’ tax and additional fees.”
The farmers say these steps will lead to significant jumps in the prices of fruits and vegetables.
The government decided to reduce the number of foreign workers in agriculture – mostly from Thailand – to 22,000. The farmers say that the agreed-upon number was 26,000, and they demand that the “missing” 4,000 be restored. They say that they pay them minimum wage – an amount for which Israelis are unwilling to perform this difficult labor.
“Just like when I was a child, we complained but we worked,” one farmer said, “because we had no other choice, the same with the Thais. No one is forcing them to come here, but if they are here, it means that it’s in their interest – so let no one say that we are taking advantage of them. Nor are they taking jobs from Israelis.”
Meir Yifrach, one of the organizers of the struggle and the strike, says, “We can no longer remain silent. We will show that we know how to unite and act, even when it costs us or the public.” He says that if the three-day strike does not yield the desired result, it could be extended or repeated.
In a letter to their fellow farmers explaining the purpose of the strike, the leaders of the Farmers Association, the Moshavim Movement, and the Israeli Agriculturalists Association write: “We demand the restoration of agriculture’s honor. Unlike other sectors, we have to deal with the forces of nature – and the State, instead of coming towards us, adds extra fees, cuts our working hands, restricts our water, and causes many farmers to abandon their lands. Instead of ‘redeeming the land,’ the opposite is happening, damaging national security, the value of settlement, the maintenance of the rule of law and of Israeli sovereignty over national lands.”